There are an estimated 7.2 million data centers worldwide today, powering the booming telecommunications, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and financial sectors. They often incorporate large complex clusters of the latest technologies such as hyperscale computing, IoT, AI, and machine learning, as well as 5G.
As the foundation of the data-driven world economy, it is essential for data centers to have a smart easy-to-deploy solution to track and manage assets. With large volumes of expensive equipment moving in and out for maintenance or reconfiguration (hard drives, servers, individual IoT devices) having a system in place that is precise and reliable is paramount. Deficient and outdated asset and tracking management systems will result in reduced asset utilization, lost revenue, and regulatory compliance concerns.
Datacenter asset tracking is the practice of tracking, monitoring, and analyzing all IT and network elements in a data center. These IT and network elements include any number of racks, sensors, as well as edge locations and sites. Monitoring the power and cooling levels of the infrastructure is also an important component of data center asset tracking.
Datacenter asset management, on the other hand, is the overall process of overseeing high-value data center assets. Its main objectives are to gain critical inventory oversight, asset control, organizational accountability, the establishment of key workflows, and maintain compliance. Asset tracking is a crucial component of data center asset management.
How does asset tracking work?
Asset tracking involves tagging individual data center assets with RFID devices that transmit data via radio waves into reader hardware. The data is then analyzed to track and manage these assets.
There are two types of RFID tracking systems: passive and active. In essence, they harness the same basic technology but differ in transmission, frequency, read range, tag size, lifecycle, attachment method, and cost.
Since passive RFID tags are mostly solid-state without other electronics inside, they have an unlimited lifecycle so long as it remains intact. Active RFID tag lifecycles have an average lifecycle of 3-5 years because of constant use and higher operating frequencies.
Passive RFID Tags
Three components make up passive RFID tags: A chip, an antenna, and a substrate.
The ChipThe chip stores data and depending on its design could be read-only (RO), write-once, read-many (WORM), or read-write (RW). Memory ranges from 2-1000 bits.
The AntennaThe antenna draws in radio-frequency (RF) waves from the reader’s signal and transmits and receives data. A passive RFID tag’s capacity is dependent on the antenna’s size.
The SubstrateBoth the antenna and the chip are attached to the third component, the substrate, considered the ‘glue’ that holds all of the tag’s elements together.
Passive asset tracking uses low-frequency, short-range RFID tagging.
Active RFID Tags
Active RFID tags also have both a microchip and an antenna. The chips, however, are usually larger in size and have greater capacity than those in passive tags. Active tags use Bluetooth, low-energy, high-frequency, or even ultra-high frequency for long-range RFID tagging. They have two additional components that distinguish them from passive tags: an onboard power supply and onboard electronics.
Onboard Power Source The power supply is usually a battery but can also be solar. The built-in power supply allows the tag to transmit data to a reader on its own, without the need to draw power from the reader itself as passive tags do. Active tags can be read from distances of 100 feet or more, whereas passive tags can only be read from up to about 20 feet.
Onboard Electronics The onboard electronics may consist of sensors, microprocessors, and input/output ports, all of which are powered by the tag’s onboard power source. The electronics allow active RFID tags to be used in a wider range of applications than passive tags.
Frequency and Read Range
While passive RFID tags have advantages in some industry settings, their limited capabilities are not enough to meet the needs of modern data centers.
In today’s mission-critical data center setting, existing –read outmoded– asset tracking systems are simply not up to the task. More importantly, manual processes pose a sizable risk for loss or error. In fact, IT asset managers at companies that use outdated manual asset tracking and inventory processes like passive RFID technology, barcode scanners or clipboards, and spreadsheets routinely report an annual average of 15% inventory inaccuracy.
What are the benefits of asset tracking and asset management?
- Improves efficiency. Regular maintenance on data center assets like hard drives and servers entails the act of physically pulling them out from a rack server. When brought to the service department, personnel can easily misplace or mislabel these assets. By digitally tracking their assets, IT admins can drastically reduce the time spent locating these lost hard drives or servers.
- Allows for proactive monitoring of critical assets. Along with easily locating lost or misplaced assets, data center asset tracking allows IT personnel to proactively manage critical equipment statuses like cooling and power levels.
- Significantly improves work-in-process tracking. From installation to maintenance works, IT managers have to stay on top of each stage involved in data center operations. With data center asset tracking, IT managers do not have to rely on guesswork as RFID tagging provides real-time work status updates from the floor or from the field.
- Significantly simplifies audits. Asset tracking involves an accurate inventory of data center assets right down to location details. This is quite simply impossible to achieve with manual inventory processes. Digital asset tracking eliminates costly and time-consuming human errors and markedly simplifies auditing processes.
- Improved audits lead to better compliance. Ever-evolving energy efficiency and compliant directives drive home why data centers must adhere to operational best practices. With a digital data center audit system in place, compliance issues are immediately addressed before they become full-blown compliance risks.
- Reduces or eliminates downtime. Data centers are the backbone of many industries. These range from multinationals to businesses serving specific industries like e-commerce and healthcare. Efficient data center asset management ensures that disruptions are kept to a minimum or eliminated altogether.
- Promotes happy and loyal customers. Less downtime means more satisfied customers. At a time when 90% of consumers worldwide consider issue resolution as their most important customer service concern, the value of stable uptime is simply crucial. Customers, particularly in the e-commerce sector, are quick to abandon slow servers.
- Optimizes the value of data center investments. Data center systems comprise expensive racks, hard disks, and IoT sensors. High-end data center asset management systems ensure the efficient and optimum utilization of expensive assets before the end of their lifecycle.
- Reduces maintenance service calls. Efficient operation of data center assets means fewer complications, issues, and repair calls. In the end, it means more savings in maintenance and minimal disruption to operations.
- Ensures organizational accountability. Digital asset management answers the important who, what, and when of roles, responsibilities, and actions required should there be a snag in the system. In the event of an issue arising, cutting-edge asset management solutions empower an organization to immediately see the problem, who is accountable, and what is being done to fix it.
- Provides measurable inputs for business budgeting and planning. Rather than relying on guesswork, IT managers can simply draw on the numbers from a data center asset management solution for insights to use in the budgeting processes or guiding the business to grow.
- Enables financial transparency. With every asset scientifically tracked, the overall inventory picture provides a clear picture of the total number of assets being managed and opens a clear path for IT managers and administrators to meet a company’s scalability needs.
- Reduces compliance risks and improves audit efficiency. Automated tracking systems provide transparency throughout an asset’s lifecycle. Transparency effectively eliminates questions about where something was at any point in time.
RF Code: Cutting-edge technologies for best-in-class asset tracking and asset management
RF Code – which boasts over 200 Fortune 500 Customers among its client base – leverages decades of experience in delivering real-time asset tracking and asset management solutions, allowing for real-time insights to ensure uptime, reduced operational expenses, and staying compliant.
It also integrates real-time environmental monitoring into its easy-to-deploy solutions, tracking temperature, humidity, and related environmental metrics down to the rack level.
RF Code’s cutting-edge, real-time asset management and environmental monitoring solutions combine active RFID asset location, environmental sensors, dedicated reader infrastructure, and powerful data center management software to deliver a precise end-to-end data center solution.
Over the years, RF Code has designed and patented active RFID sensors for application in different data center environments. It uses open APIs so customers can extract maximum value from their existing data center hardware and applications without complicating operations and adding extra lines to their investments.
The use of open APIs also eliminates the need for complex and costly technology and software migration. Using open APIs further allows IT administrators to seamlessly integrate RF Code’s asset tracking and management solutions into existing IT systems ensuring a smooth and rapid roll-out. As it is, speed is key to running mission-critical services that customers depend on.
RF Code’s platforms come with real-time, leading-edge reporting capabilities to empower key decision-makers to run enhanced data centers. It further gleans real-time operational data that inform the crucial decisions needed to protect data center assets while saving time and money. With 1m+ assets tracked in real-time, RF Code’s hardware and software solutions ensure that each data center asset yields optimum value at each stage of its lifecycle.
By combining state-of-the-art asset tracking RFID for best-practice asset management, open APIs, and superb reporting capabilities, RF Code has to date saved clients $374 million.
Core Features of RF Code’s Tracking and Management Solution
Asset Location and Environmental Monitoring Sensors These are patented active RFID sensors attached to each IT asset. These sensors enable the automation of locating and managing tagged assets throughout their entire lifespan, from the time of delivery, through deployment, to retirement.
RF Code sensors are wireless, making them easy to install and deploy in different data center settings. Their visibility and granularity make them ideal for fine-tuning data center operations.
Dedicated Reader Infrastructure Paired with active RFID sensors, RF Code readers are easy to install. They work with RF Code’s infrared-powered rack and room locators to provide constant visibility of asset locations and the environmental conditions surrounding them.
They are equipped to handle long read ranges, edge monitoring, and multiple data streams generated by thousands of asset location and environmental sensors. With these powerful capabilities, RF Code readers streamline deployment and ensure continuous real-time asset visibility.
CenterScape Software RF Code’s CenterScape software is designed to address the most challenging needs of data centers; from design to management to operations. Its open API implementation allows data centers to pair CenterScape with other applications typically used in the data center space. These include help-desk and customer solutions, BMS services, ITSM, and DCIM platforms.
Easy to set up, configure, and customize, CenterScape delivers control and real-time insight into operational risk, cost, and compliance. Informed by years of best practices in the industry, CenterScape is easily scalable to cater to the requirements of different types of data centers, from small edge-configured server rooms to global hyperscale deployments.
Created by some of the leading experts in the field, our systems are designed for flexibility and customization. RF Code is thus uniquely positioned to meet the specific needs of your data centers, enabling you to deliver business-critical services to your customers at the speed they demand.
To discover how RF Code’s real-time asset tracking and management solutions can save you time and money while ensuring accountability and compliance, schedule a demo today.